Is smoking weed bad for your lungs?

Miss Dr. Martina Pötschke-Langer, Head of the Cancer Prevention Unit at the Cancer Research Center Heidelberg makes it clear what damage to health can occur and gives tips on how to deal responsibly with the glowing stick.

Every year on May 31st is World No Tobacco Day. A day of remembrance that repeatedly gives rise to initiatives and actions that usually focus on the protection of non-smokers. Of course, a single day does not help the population on the way to a healthier life. That is why health ministries and research groups repeatedly use platforms to provide information. Like the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg in its brochure “Protecting the Family from Tobacco Smoke”. There is a lot of information about tobacco smoke and tips on how to protect your family from the harmful smoke from cigarettes.

What is tobacco smoke made of and how does it react with the environment?

The smoke from a cigarette is an extremely complex mixture. So far, 4,800 different substances have been found in fresh tobacco smoke. 250 of these substances were toxic and therefore harmful to health. Tobacco smoke contains nicotine, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in its main components. Tobacco smoke also contains a large number of carcinogens (substances that cause cancer) such as benzene, 1,3-butadiene, benzopyrene and a host of other toxins that are inhaled.

How harmful these substances are can be seen when you consider, for example, that 1,3-butadiene is a substance that is actually a basic substance for car tires and can be found in car exhaust fumes

Other known toxins are, for example, hydrocyanic acid, lead, ammonia, arsenic, phenol, cadium, acrylonitrile, benzene and formaldehyde, to name just a few! Hydrocyanic acid and phenol are found in weed and pest killers. Batteries contain cadium and lead. Arsenic should be known to every crime fanatic as a deadly poison. Benzene is an anti-knock agent in gasoline. Acrylonitrile is created in the production of plastic. Formaldehyde is a preservative and disinfectant. Ammonia can be found in aggressive cleaning agents. Almost all of the substances mentioned are carcinogenic and / or mutagenic. Many of them damage the eyes and respiratory tract and attack important organs in the human body.

Depending on the temperature, humidity and other environmental influences, the smoke changes its concentration and composition. It can combine with other particles, stick to various surfaces in rooms and thus be inhaled or swallowed by humans. A conventional cigarette, for example, emits around 600 milligrams of carbon dioxide (CO2), 4.5 milligrams of carbon monoxide (CO), 5 milligrams of nicotine and 25 milligrams of smoke particles into the environment.

Exposure of non-smokers to tobacco smoke

According to statistics from the Cancer Research Center, passive tobacco smoke exposure in the workplace in 2009 was 45.2 percent for men and 30 percent for women. These values ​​correspond to the possible pollution in pubs and coffees. Here the values ​​are 37.6 percent for men and 30 percent for women. The age group of 18 to 19 year olds is most affected: 72 percent of men and 61.5 percent of women were exposed to tobacco smoke at least once a week. The main source of tobacco smoke exposure in children and adolescents aged 11 to 17 is in the home environment. Around 25 percent of all non-smoking children are exposed to tobacco smoke from their parents who smoke cigarettes on a daily basis. These children are four times as exposed to tobacco smoke as children of non-smoking parents.

Health risks from exposure to tobacco smoke

Passive smoking can cause acute health problems as well as chronic diseases of the respiratory tract and the cardiovascular system, but it can also trigger cancers such as lung, larynx and throat cancer. The lungs are hardest hit by tobacco smoke. The smoke weakens their defense functions and negatively affects the self-cleaning mechanism. This can lead to inflammation in the lungs. In addition, it can lead to diseases that narrow the airways and become chronic. Even brief exposure to tobacco smoke can lead to functional disorders of the innermost cell layer of the blood vessels, which then manifests itself in the expansion of the vessels and the clumping of blood platelets. This can lead to a deposit of blood lipids (cholesterol) and clumped connective tissue, which contributes to the development of arteriosclerosis. In the case of other cardiovascular diseases caused by passive smoking, the coronary arteries (coronary heart disease) or arterial cerebral vessels can be affected, which in the worst case can lead to a heart attack or a stroke.

The diseases mentioned are only a very small part of a whole range of health problems that can arise from inhaling, swallowing or absorbing smoke through the skin. Going into all the effects of smoke on the human body would go beyond the scope here.

The health impact of smoking in closed rooms

The fact that passive smoking in and of itself can be hazardous to human health has been found time and again in many studies and proven by medical reports. However, what few people think about is the fact that the toxins contained in tobacco smoke settle in textiles and other surfaces and the toxic quantities increase over time. Touching a surface contaminated with tobacco smoke can then contain hundreds of times the amount of the substances in the smoke of a single cigarette. These substances are either swallowed or absorbed through the skin using what is known as “third-hand smoke”. Small children, who come into frequent contact with upholstery, carpets and other materials, are particularly at risk. In addition to living and working rooms, tobacco smoke exposure in vehicles is a particularly great source of danger because the smoke is even more concentrated in the narrow driver's compartment.

The only protection against tobacco smoke - do not smoke!

For non-smokers, the most effective and at the same time the most difficult recipe against the influence of tobacco smoke is avoidance. If possible, you should not stand in the smokers' atmosphere outdoors. When entering publicly accessible rooms, one can also make sure that one bypasses "smoking areas".

The most important tip for closed rooms: never smoke in your own living space. It is strongly advised to keep the door closed. A strict smoking ban at home not only keeps the toxic smoke out, it also protects children in the household from starting to smoke themselves. The latter has been found in several studies. Children and adolescents who grow up in a smoke-free household show a significantly lower acceptance of smoking. When preventing tobacco smoke, it should be noted that just ventilating the rooms or smoking with the window open does not provide complete protection, as the smoke is still spread throughout the apartment. Measurements in smoker's apartments showed that in the rooms where people smoked, the concentration of respirable particles due to tobacco smoke was 84 micrograms per cubic centimeter. In the other rooms of the smoker's apartment, in which there was no smoking, the particle concentration was only slightly lower at 63 micrograms per cubic centimeter.